Science, it proved the earth goes around the sun, it eradicated polio (in the first world), and put man on the moon (depending who you ask)—now, it will make whiskey age faster. Could this be perhaps its greatest achievement yet? Well, that is the question a young man from Philadelphia names Ben Winston asked himself as I introduced my college comrades to the wonders of the New Hampshire State Liquor Outlet. Being ever the (computer) scientist himself, Ben reached for Cleveland bourbon whiskey. Ian and I went Bulleit bourbon and rye, respectively. The science behind Cleveland and that “make whiskey age faster” thing I mentioned before goes something like this: Cleveland makes white whiskey, Cleveland throws this and some charred oak in a pressure cooker type thing, changes in heat and pressure merge the oakiness to the booziness faster, then it gets 6 months in a barrel and boom whiskey. There’s a lot more to it than that I’m sure, but the guy Tom Lix who makes the stuff is all about industry secrets and stuff. Skeptical? So was I. So am I, for that matter. So before I go one, I’m gunna drink it.
First think you’ll notice about this is the color, a rich dark molasses that makes this six-month old the Benjamin Button of bourbon. The nose is rather unusual, woody must, citrus and some kind of thick caramel chew, with a light whiff of alcohol. Rather pleasant, actually. The nose doesn’t belie the taste, wurther’s chews and heavy oak with a bite that stings the tongue a bit, though doesn’t hit the throat too heavily. The finish is warm and oaky. Kind of like a smoldering campfire. The funny thing about this bourbon is that in spite of its youth it has the kind of oak that people complain about in some older whiskies, which seems to overpower the whiskey leaving it a bit one dimensional. At just above $30 this perhaps isn’t quite the bang for your buck that you’d desire, though the 100 proof does slake my thirst.
Overall I do appreciate what Cleveland has done. In the face of a menacing global whiskey crisis—caused specifically by the time it takes to age whiskey—they have found a way to make whiskey quick, and with science! The upside of this is fast whiskey and consistency. With Cleveland there’s none of that crazy alchemy of 7 years of moving around barrels and tasting them, blending them and well, magic mostly. The science means consistency, advancement, progress! I must say though, if you couldn’t figure it out, I’m a bit anachronistic. I like listening to 70 year old music on vinyl, or even acetate, and I like my whiskey with a little bit of magic and mystery too. Though, for the record I’ll let science explain the mysteries of the universe for me.
P.S. Special thanks to Ben and Ian for forgetting all their booze at my house