By Randall Borkus
Widow Jane Distillery is a distiller and bottler out of Red Hook, Brooklyn, and owned by Cacao Prieto, the maker of “beans-to-bar” fresh chocolates. In turn, Cacao Prieto was founded by Daniel Prieto Preston, an inventor and aerospace engineer whose family heritage goes back 100 years of farming organic cacao in the Dominican Republic. Their expressions are largely not distilled at their distillery, but instead are sourced whiskey from other distilleries in Kentucky and maybe Indiana, with their 7 and 8 year old bourbons proving successful. Yet Widow Jane has their own still and are now beginning to age their own whisky.
The name of the whiskey comes from the Widow Jane Mine in Rosendale, NY. This particular offering was distilled in Kentucky and shipped to New York for bottling, where it is cut with water from their namesake Widow Jane mine. The limestone water used is unusually mineral-rich which influences the flavor profile of their bourbon whiskey.
I find a lot of the stories behind the various whiskey expressions entertaining and just down right laughable in many cases (Blood Oath for example), and then failing to deliver the goods on top of that. Here, the flavor profile proved perhaps unique and certainly enjoyable. It took me a couple of pours to fully appreciate and get a handle on the juice, but that I did, and I was only left to wonder if some of that didn’t have to do with the water they rate so highly.
The bottle design is a simple one, with a white-backed label that stands out amid my shelf. It contains the barrel number, bottle number, and date all of which are hand written in red ink which adds to the look. My bottle is from barrel #1038, bottle #165 with a 2016 date at 91 proof.
The whiskey is a dark bronze color in the bottle and dark cooper brown in the glass with medium legs. The nose is sweet and inviting, with an aroma that reaches out and promises something complex to come. I pick up hints of chocolate, sweet corn, vanilla, and honey with a splash of lemon peel on the nose.
The first sip creates a mouth feel that is slightly warm, syrupy and flavorful with a potpourri of Mocha, vanilla, oak, a touch of rye spice, pepper and a noticeable floral earthiness undertone in the back of the throat. The finish reminds me of a tasty mocha chocolate with more vanilla, oak, a slight burnt sugar, rye spice, salt, all weaved together with a distinct floral essence that reminds me a little of a Four Roses experience. Overall I really like the finish as its long with hints of lemon peel, more floral essence that gives way to an oaky mocha dryness that I really enjoy.
What’s really interesting for me is that when I first opened the bottle I was less then excited about the nose and the overall flavor experience. I opened the bottle again a few days later and I sampled a few ounces and now I’m a big fan. This Widow Jane 10 Year Old has really blossomed for me after giving it a chance to breathe a little more deeply, so this is a whiskey that needs a little air to reach full flower.
The catch is going to be finding yourself a bottle, as it may prove difficult depending upon your location. This is an East Coast juice for sure. I have yet to see it in the Midwest, but the good news is I travel a lot so I have sampled the 7 Year Old and 8 Year Old in New York State and Florida, and now this 10 Year Old as well. A 750 ML bottle was $74.99 online if available. If you find it, buy two.