Doc Swinson’s is a Non-Distiller Producer (NDP) located in Washington state. Their goal is to source the best whiskies that they can find and either finish them in various casks or bottle them up, untouched, at cask strength. In regards to the former, Doc has launched their “Alter Ego” label which is designed to explore the effects of finishing bourbon and rye whiskey in different casks. The rye whiskey gets finished in rum casks, but the bourbon gets finished in 3 different casks: Oloroso Sherry, PX Sherry and Cognac. Sound familiar? That’s because Joseph Magnus also makes a bourbon that is finished in those exact same casks.
The similarities are all over the place, but whereas Joseph Magnus bottles their Triple Cask Bourbon at 100 proof, Doc Swinson’s sees their Alter Ego bourbon bottled at only 95.8 proof. Both brands use MGP bourbon as the base, but whereas Joseph Magnus has hinted that their bourbon is around 9 years old, Doc claims they use 5-6 year old bourbon. The prices do show the age discrepancy but only by a little bit. I’ve seen the Joseph Magnus Triple Cask anywhere from $85 to $100 while the Alter Ego Bourbon is around $60 to $70.
In the future, this would make for an exciting blind tasting, but for now I’m going to concentrate on just the Alter Ego Bourbon today. I am a big fan of finished whiskies and have my preferences and this one should be in my wheelhouse. So how did I like it? I sat down with my Glencairn to find out.
Nose: Fruit scents arrive first with notes of orange marmalade, cherry juice, raisins and dried apricots. There is also baked apples with a little bit of cinnamon. The nose is also undeniably sweet with lots of brown sugar.
Palate: Cinnamon stick and seasoned wood are the first flavors I detect before the sweetness of all of those finishing casks begins to overwhelm. It’s not cloying, but if you’re a sweet bourbon lover, you’ll be right at home. Baked Granny Smith apples, ripe grapes, currants, red wine and vanilla custard all help to pack in the flavors to what ends up being a very light mouthfeel. There’s a bit of leather and bittersweet chocolate dancing about (likely from the PX casks) followed by a small amount of heat (likely from the lower proof).
Finish: The fruit dominates the finish yet again as notes of apricots, plums and black cherries linger for a while, much like taking a small sip of wine. Fresh mint and cinnamon (hallmarks of MGP bourbon) fade away nicely along with some brown sugar for sweetness. For as many notes as I found on the finish, I’m finding it to be rather short. Bummer.
Would it be redundant to remark one more time about just how fruit-forward this bourbon is? Because I feel like I should say it again. While I was happy to find the notes I love so much (chocolate from the PX casks, vanilla custard from the Cognac), I am trying to put my finger on what it is that made this dram feel a bit disjointed. It’s almost like all of the finishing barrels were fighting for dominance and nobody won. The nose kept improving with each sniff but for all the more complexity this should have revealed, the flavors were short lived and slightly off-balance. The session reminded me of drinking wine rather than an oily, viscous whiskey.
Drinkers of Joseph Magnus Triple Cask found their bottles to be similar to my notes too. Reviews are littered with tasting notes that describe a great nose and some fun flavors initially, but then everything falls flat at the finish. I think that is what happened here although I don’t understand why. Joseph Magnus’s bottle is an expensive way to try a triple cask finished-bourbon, especially if you find you don’t like it, but Doc Swinson’s Alter Ego is a little more friendly on your wallet. Many companies will continue to finish MGP bourbon in various casks, but this is one that I recommend you try first before you buy.
1 | Disgusting | Drain pour (Example: Jeffers Creek)
2 | Poor | Forced myself to drink it
3 | Bad | Flawed (AD Laws 4 Grain BiB, Clyde Mays anything)
4 | Sub-par | Many things I’d rather have (Tincup 10 year)
5 | Good | Good, solid, ordinary (Larceny, Sazerac Rye)
6 | Very Good | Better than average (Buffalo Trace, OGD BiB)
7 | Great | Well above average (Old Ezra Barrel Proof, Old Weller Antique)
8 | Excellent | Exceptional (Michter’s Barrel Proof Rye, Four Roses Barrel Strength)
9 | Incredible | Extraordinary (GTS, 13 Year MGP or Canadian Rye)
10 | Insurpassable | Nothing Else Comes Close (William Larue Weller)
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