Oh Taste & See: Wathen's Single Barrel Bourbon

Wathen's Kentucky Bourbon is one of those whiskeys that is a bit hard to figure out, at least in terms of exactly where, how, and by whom it was made. The bottle says that it was distilled in Kentucky, but it also says "Bottled By Charles Medley Distillery, San Jose, CA". To add further confusion, Wathen's website claims that the Charles Medley Distillery is in Owensboro, KY. That distillery is definitely there, and is owned by the Angostura company (of bitters fame) but I can't find any evidence that it has actually produced Bourbon in the recent past.

To add to the confusion, the bottle gives no age statement, so there's no way to work backwards to when this bourbon was made. So, I'll assume that Wathen's, in its current form, is made by one of the major distilleries and that the California-based company is merely the owner of the brand. If I had to bet on which distillery it comes from I would go with Buffalo Trace in Frankfort, but I'd love to hear a more definitive answer to this question. For now check this out for more on this part of the story.

All that mystery aside, there's no mystery as to the quality of the bourbon inside my Wathen's bottle - it is excellent. In fact this is one of the best bourbon's I've tried in a long time, and I wouldn't hesitate to pick up another bottle the next time I see one since it's fairly priced for a single-barrel bourbon at $37.99.

Note: This is a single barrel bourbon, so it could vary greatly from one batch to another. My bottle is listed as being from Barrel Number 304, bottled on 3/7/11.

Color: Wathen's has a classic, deep orange color reminiscent of polished maple furniture. Not too dark or too light, but a just right middle-ground.

Nose: The nose is a classic essence of sweet bourbon. There are hints of citrus, orange marmalade, vanilla, and oak. It's a clean, fresh aroma.

Flavor: Wathen's has a rich flavor that starts out sweet with raisins, vanilla, cherries, and oranges and then opens up to nice hot peppers and spice. A very smooth and pleasant bourbon to sip, and all the flavors hold up well to a couple cubes of ice for a hot summer day. Overall it's sweet without feeling sticky or heavy.

Finish: There's a nice bit of spicy burn on the tongue as the taste fades. The finish is smooth with long-lingering spice and grape flavors.

Overall this bourbon reminds me of another of my favorites, 1792 Ridgemont Reserve, because it provides plenty of complexity in a very smooth, easy-drinking bourbon that still has some bite to it. Hopefully one day they'll tell us the full story on this delightful bourbon.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well hopefully I can help you out with a little of your confusion. Wathens is not corporately owned as you suspected. I is indeed family owned. Wathens was started by Charles Medley's father shortly after WW II and was I believe the family recipe passed on for generations prior to going into business . The Wathens name come from the marriage of Thos Medley to Florence Wathens. Also they do not list an age on bourbon because they bottle according to the right taste not the rightage. It is fully aged in Kentucky then bottled in California. Hope that helps, Enjoy!!

Anonymous said...

Having met Charley Medley (July 2012) in Nashville recently, I can agree with the previous posters comments on the ownership, heritage, and how it's bottled. Whiskey Jim definitely sampled most of his bottle ... starts off vanilla .. ends with hot peppers and spice. Agree. You sip a bit, hmm, then sip some more, damn the bottle is gone. Hint: Buy two. Its really as good as described. Don't count on flying your Bombardier or Citation the next day, with Wathens it's at least 24 hours between bottle and throttle.

Anonymous said...

I don't know beans about the details of making bourbon. I truthfully can't pick out individual flavors. All I know is I've been drinking various bourbons for the past 30 years. I picked up a bottle of Wathens on my way to a fellow bourbon drinker's house for a dinner party. It was totally a shot in the dark (pun intended) and all I can say is I couldn't be more pleased. I usually taste the bourbon straight and if it bites too hard, I dilute it with water or mix it with coca cola. This bourbon will never touch water or cola--it was that smooth and drinkable. As long as subsequent barrels taste as good, I'll keep buying it.

A Bourbon Lover said...

Where do they sell Wathen's Bourbon? I live in Kansas. Is available here or in Missouri which I live close to.
Thank you,
Linda

A Bourbon Lover said...

Where can I find Wathen's bourbon? I live in Kansas but very close to Missouri.

Thank you,
Linda

Anonymous said...

I got the idea that this was a close relative to willet or buffalo trace. It reminds me a lot eagle rare or willet pot still. Very coppery and light character. Nice and smooth. By the third glass my dissatisfaction was short-lived. I think it is really good. But there is better for the money. I like it but at a lower price would make it more comparable. Fyi. I am a Virginia ABC store employee, fan of bourbon $100+&$15. I have tried a lot.

Seth said...

I was thrown off the first time I saw it and had the same confusion. Mostly because it's in the same bottle as Elmer T. Lee.