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Peerless Double Oak Bourbon Review

Peerless Double Oak Bourbon Review

There are a few big names in American Whiskey that I have – for one reason or another – never really devoted my time or money to invest in. Peerless has been one of those distilleries. I have exactly one review of their standard bourbon and zero for their rye whiskey. Some people have pointed this out and told me I’m missing out.

The one thing that always holds me back is their pricing. When they began to release a 24-month old rye whiskey in late 2017, the retail price was set at $100. A majority of buyers blindly paid that amount in the hopes that Peerless had discovered some holy grail of distilling and maturation. The beautiful packaging certainly helped. But one sip immediately proved there was no magic inside. Just the realization that you spent $50 per year aged on a young, prematurely bottled rye whiskey. This caused a lot of enthusiasts to swear off the brand.

Peerless embraces variety as a way to increase sales

From 2018 to 2020, Peerless Rye Whiskey and Bourbon saw lackluster sales. Part of the issue seemed to be that there wasn’t much distribution. The other issue seemed to be that early buyers were warning their friends not to buy it just yet. Peerless was adding age to their products, but it was painfully slow. Consumers wouldn’t buy because the products didn’t taste like the price they were selling for, so what could they do?

The answer was to implement barrel finishes to cloak the young taste. Over the next few years, finishes like Rum, Absinthe, Toasted finishes and Double Oak finishes all popped up. Finishing young whiskey isn’t exactly a new phenomenon, but to some it was a little surprising seeing as how Peerless initially started out as a distillery that seemed bent on creating a more “pure” whiskey experience to one that was now using gimmicks.

This brings us to the subject of today’s review: Peerless’ Double Oak Bourbon.

The Peerless way of making whiskey (and Double Oak Bourbon)

Peerless has always tried to distinguish themselves to consumers by showing their commitment to more expensive, methodical methods of distilling spirits. Their marketing closely mimics Michter’s who also has a very “cost be dammed” approach to making whiskey. This is why they extoll the virtues of low barrel entry proof (theirs is 107 proof) and the flaunt their “Sweet Mash” fermentation style.

Typically when distillers are open about information like that, they tend to keep divulging information knowing that enthusiasts will drink it up (literally as well). Strangely, Peerless doesn’t. Apart from knowing that they source their rye grain from a distributor 8 miles away (who sources it from farms up and down the Ohio River Valley), we don’t know a thing about the mash bills they use. I’m surprised nobody has taken a stab at it, but I’m going to try to do it for their bourbon right now.

What we know is that when Peerless released their High Rye Bourbon in April, 2023, Caleb Kilburn told Fred Minnick that the amount of rye in the recipe was basically double that of their standard bourbon. So what’s their standard bourbon recipe? It’s also never been revealed, but we know from the same interview that the rye and the malted barley percentages are basically equal. As an aside, Peerless also uses enzymes as a way of supercharging their fermentation process. It’s all explained in the video as well.

A friend of mine who has some connections has hinted that the corn percentage in Peerless’ standard bourbon was in the 60% range. So after putting all of this information together, I’ve just going to post up the best guess of what I think Peerless’ Bourbon and High Rye Bourbon Mash Bills are. Feel free to argue with me in the comments.

Bourbon Recipe: 68/16/16

High Rye Bourbon Recipe: 52/32/16

As for the age of the Double Oaked Bourbon, it’s NAS or Non-Age Stated, but word on the street is that it’s been finished in the secondary barrel for 2 additional years. It’s a safe bet that the bourbon was aged at least 4 years in Char #3 barrels before it was finished as well. This would put the age right around 6 years overall.

So if you’re looking for other double-oaked bourbons that have seen similar aging, the closest one you’re going to get is probably Woodford Reserve Double Double Oaked or Old Forester 1910 Extra Extra Old (both of which are 375ml bottles released annually at their gift shops). Both see an additional 24 months in a secondary barrel.

Now that we know the backstory behind this bourbon, let’s check out this single barrel pick from Market District in Carmel, Indiana. This bottle comes in at 108 proof on the dot (they’re all between 107 and 111). Although it’s a single barrel, I would estimate it’s fairly close to the flavor profile of the batched varieties. Let’s see how it tastes. I sampled this neat in a glencairn.

Tasting Notes

Nose: The nose is primarily driven by notes of chocolate, spice and oak. Those spices include cinnamon and clove. I can pick up on a couple of fruit notes as well, but they’re not as noticeable; raspberry jam and orange marmalade seem to be the main two. The whole nose is pretty good overall, but I can’t help but think that it’s being “blanketed” by all the extra oak notes.  

Palate: The first thing that comes to mind as I sip on this bourbon is “Mexican Hot Chocolate.” It’s chocolatey and spicy at the same time, kind of like chili oil and cinnamon infused with chocolate. I even get the flavor of a peppermint candy cane and allspice. Oak spice is everywhere and so is vanilla. Graham Crackers are nice to find, but come off as somewhat young. There are fruits to be found if you can look around the darker notes, but they’re a nice addition: cherries, currants and citrus fruit. 

Finish: The finish loses a lot of complexity that the palate showed. Tannins like oak, leather and even ash move in and begin to take over. There is some caramel and nougat for contrast, but otherwise there are no more bright fruits notes to compliment them.

Score: 7.7/10

This is difficult to say, but for as much as I liked drinking this bourbon, I never found myself being impressed by it. The oak and chocolate notes are usually fun to find, but they seemed to smother every other flavor or scent I could find. There was no sort of mature aspect while tasting it either. This should come with more time in the (primary) barrel, but at no point did I think I was drinking a bourbon any older than 6 years.

On the flipside, the proof seemed perfect. It was strong enough and gave it just enough punch. I wouldn’t imagine it being any better at some higher proof. It also seemed to avoid any of the bitterness that can come from having too much interaction with new charred oak. So while I thought this had too much barrel influence, it didn’t have enough to degrade the final product.

Final Thoughts

Before you go thinking I have it out for Peerless, I want to direct you to my reviews on the two main competitors I listed earlier; Woodford Reserve Double Double Oaked and Old Forester 1910 Extra Extra Old. These are two bourbons that didn’t impress me as much as they did for some enthusiasts. There seems to be a limit to the benefits when it comes to “double oaking” a bourbon and 2 years seems to be over that limit.

I fully expect that others will disagree with that, so I’ll only say to try it for yourself with at least one of the versions I’m talking about. If you find that you like the version that spent 2 years in a secondary barrel over 1, then this bottle of Peerless Double Oak is probably for you. But if you find out that the extra time in a secondary barrel notes is covering up and muting all of the other interesting flavors, then apply that knowledge to other brands because it really is the same story.

Hopefully this Double Oak fad is just a temporary measure for Peerless until its barrels reach 8 to 10 years old, because I can’t see this becoming much better than the score I gave it. Peerless’ regular bourbon may have a higher ceiling as it continues to age, but their Double Oak Bourbon has gone as high as it can go. Spend those big bucks elsewhere.

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