Nose: Apple juice, vanilla, honey, allspice, caramel covered apples, cinnamon hearts and maple squares. And, as a nice touch, a little bit of oakiness and cigar box.
Taste: Cinnamon, Allspice, vanilla and honey and the maple squares are all front and centre.
Finish: Long, smooth and lingering.
Most of the bourbon produced in the United States comes from Kentucky. More accurately, 95%. Now, the bourbon in the spotlight for this review comes from, wait for it, Vallejo, California, not far from all those wine producers in Napa Valley (This is where you do your best Keanu Reeves’ “whoah”.). Ok… well, kind of. While the distillery is physically in California, the contents of the Burning Chair comes from Kentucky, Indiana and Tennessee. The whiskies are aged for a minimum of at least 4 years in new charred oak American barrels. Then, they all come out, get introduced to each other and hang out together in wine barrels hand picked by vintner excellenticus, Dave Phinney, for 8 months.
While it is a bourbon, with a mash of 75% corn, 21% rye, 4% malted barley I find the entire experience of this whiskey not “typically” bourbon-esque. Right off the hop, the wine influences can be seen. It starts with the bottle: opaque and non-usual bottle shaped. The label is very minimalist yet funky. Pouring out of the bottle into my glen cairn, the wine influence continues with a warm mahogany colour sitting in the glass (Ok – I’m intrigued.). So the colour is the introduction, now comes the experience… the How Do You Do. Here goes: The first thing I pick up is… what? Apple Juice? Yup – light, airy and fresh. Right after that, comes the vanilla, honey and allspice and oak with the cinnamon hearts and the other notes as listed above. Not all rushing at once but nicely introducing themselves in a nice, orderly fashion. Even though it’s called “The Burning Chair”, there isn’t a huge bourbon “burn” to this one. Granted there’s that allspice and cinnamon presence on the way down; however, I find this burn to be more like soft embers of smoothness – especially in the nice, long, and lingering finish. It’s bottled at 44% ABV so that little extra bit gives it that extra push to bring all those notes out.
The Burning Chair isn’t your typical bourbon so don’t expect a typical bourbon experience. Of course there are many top-notch, world class, “hot damn” bourbons out there. And wine finished bourbons, while not as plentiful, are being introduced more and more. So too are Sherry and Port finished expressions. Savage & Cooke are adding their lot to this growing bourbon enrichment. At the end of the day, you love the whisky you love; however, the more whiskies you enjoy, the more you enjoy whisky. So, if you have a burning desire to some different whisky exploring, then The Burning Chair might be your match. Cheers!