The Whiskey Baron Collection from Campari (read: Wild Turkey distillate) is an interesting one. These little 375ml bottles seem to vary drastically in availability, price, and popularity as well. In all honesty, we hadn’t had the opportunity to see a bottle in the wild, so we had all-but written this one off as an apparition we would ponder some summer night down the road as we’re waxing nostalgic by the camp fire…but I digress.
As our buddy DJ mentioned on Rarebird101, Campari was to blame for the ambiguity of the Whiskey Baron’s Collection release. Simultaneously touting the resurrection of Prohibition-era juice, and muddying the waters on who was behind the resurrection was an odd PR move in our opinion. While brand separation makes sense–it’s uncertain why in the hell a clearer statement wasn’t made. Everyone loves mysterious bourbon lore I suppose, but us bourbon geeks just want to know who made the juice.
William Butler Saffell began distilling as a teenager. With his grit, determination, and reputed hand-made sour mash, it wasn’t long after, in 1889, that he built his first distillery. What resulted was a delicate, golden Kentucky Bourbon, first created northwest of Lawrenceburg, that became a treasure of pre-prohibition America.
Saffell himself may have said it best when he remarked, “My own small product is not excelled by any.” Crafted to stand apart, this non-chill filtered offering is a blend of 6, 8, 10, and 12 year old Kentucky Straight Bourbon. It delivers a complex spice, caramel & wood flavor along with notes of creamy vanilla & dried fruit. Recreated to deliver every bit of that pre-prohibition, straight-from-the-barrel flavor, this genuine piece of bourbon heritage won’t be around for long. Only a limited number are available, so own a piece of history before they’re gone forever.
Right, then. Diving into the third release in the Whiskey Baron’s Collection…
Nose – Caramel. Sweet, strong, and riding on waves of fruit. There’s a light buttery note to the fruit that’s reminiscent of an apple pie that may have baked a little long. Slight oak gives way to vanilla but this keeps coming back to big sweet caramel.
Taste – Right up front is mild vanilla that’s immediately rolled over into a caramel candy. A gorgeous mouthfeel here. A delicate amount of citrus is present–but the buttery caramel and even a bit of dark amber maple syrup mix in as this coats the palate. Does not drink to it’s proof, this is an extremely easy-sipper.
Finish – At 107 proof WB Saffell brings with it a bit of heat that hugs the palate for a nice finish and doesn’t fall away–this is in no way a hot bourbon and while I really dislike using this word to describe whiskey, “smooth” comes to mind. There’s a little bit of spice in here, but the long voluptuous finish is still holding a sweet note that won’t quit (in a good way).
The Bourbon Finder Grade: A
Thoughts – Wow! This little bottle has skyrocketed it’s way to the top of the list for 2019. This is some excellent juice, and if you can find one of these itty-bitty bottles on the shelf…you’d be well-advised to buy it. Interestingly enough, the first pour of WB Saffell we tried was the same night Fred Minnick picked it as #1 in his blind tasting of “Pappy vs. the field” series on YouTube! Very cool stuff. If you tune into the beginning of Fred’s video you’ll see me (John Henderson) mention I’m having a pour of WB Saffell. Perfect coincidence? Perfect coincidence.
Our grading system: As mentioned in our About Us page, we’re excited to share bourbon with our friends, family, and readers. There are enough critics, cynics, and curmudgeons in the whiskey world as it is. Our goal is to foster the bourbon community in a positive way by bringing fun and entertaining content whenever possible, and as such we decided early on that applying precise scores to whiskey was simply too serious for us. We use a simple grade school system to apply a grade to the whiskeys we review because it is indicative of the whiskey’s grade for us on that particular day. A grade of a “B” today may very well be a “B+” or even a “B-” on another day. Pour a bit and enjoy, these are the good old days of whiskey!