By Elizabeth Emmons
Timber Creek was founded in 2014 near Destin, FL, along Florida’s Emerald Coast (or the “Redneck Riviera,” as it is sometimes known). It was founded by Aaron Barnes and Camden Ford, neighbors who bonded over their love of beer and quality ingredients.
Timber Creek uses a “gentle approach” with the grain during the distilling processes. This entails cracking the grains with a roller mill and then separating the tannic husks of the grain from the liquid in the lauter tun (the machine in which wort is separated from the grain), and is different from what many distilleries do. The most common method is to crush the grain and the husks together into a flour which can result in a more tannic and subsequently bitter and off flavor. Barnes and Ford felt that by doing it this way, they could exercise more control over the taste and produce a whiskey with purer flavors.
The Reserve is a rich, dark, burnt red/orange color. The legs are distinct, yet light, and once they drip down the side of the glass, one is left with a lasting outline reminiscent of a mountain range.
When nosed, the top note is of clean-smelling new oak, yet the core of this nose is warm with the essence of spiced nut cake (walnut or almond) and orange zest. The zest is very present.
The mouthfeel is medium-bodied and slightly oily. The oil forms a light blanket on the tongue, and after a few sips, the roundness of this whisky is apparent. The initial sip is distinctly sweet and spicy and I immediately thought of the way in which many Chinese dishes have this juxtaposition of flavors. While the molasses sweetness is gooey and full, it is tempered by the spice. The sweetness is of roasted pear, warmed agave, fruit nectar (such as guava) and caramel saltwater taffy. The spicy elements, no doubt enhanced by the fact that it is 100 proof, are definitely present but do not compete with the sweetness. The sweetness is present as one would expect from a bourbon yet it is blanketed by the warmth of the spices – a nice balance. The spice follows through from the nose and distinct cooking spices, such as cloves and toasted almonds (skins on) dominate the taste.
The finish is long lasting and spicy. The tail end of the finish is cake-ish, with hints of milk chocolate, and it becomes progressively drier and drier.
I appreciate that this whiskey, from nose to finish, matches up. If it smells like freshly baked spiced cake, then let’s hope it tastes like it too! There is nothing worse than salivating over an appealing nose, only to be disappointed by the taste.
To compare with Timber Creek’s original Florida Bourbon, I found this expression to be a souped-up and heavier version. To begin with, it is higher proof. The ABV on the Florida Bourbon was 46.5% and those extra percentage points make a difference to the spice and warmth. When nosed side by side, the Reserve was distinctly warmer (chocolate and molasses) than the original (newly polished wood and the brightness of raw green pear). I also find that the grains differentiate themselves both on the nose and palate. The Florida Bourbon is a mixture of corn, wheat and barley while the Reserve is corn, wheat and rye. The rye is responsible for aspects of the peppery palate, the hints of milk chocolate on both the nose and palate, and the more rounded qualities of the whiskey when combined with the other grains.
The Reserve is very tasty, especially for a young whiskey. It tastes older than it is and is smooth and balanced – all appealing qualities. It commands more of your attention than the original because it is more complex. That being said, I think that both the original and the Reserve have their unique merits so it is really what one is in the mood for if deciding between the two. Price does not play a large factor here as the Reserve is only $9 more.
I am a sucker for a brand that supports the local economy and does things their own way. This is certainly Timber Creek. Their whiskies are tasty, giftable and reasonably priced. So, you can’t go wrong with either choice.
This Florida bourbon goes for $47 a bottle.