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Pursuit Series Bourbon (Episode #44) Review

Pursuit Series Bourbon (Episode #44) Review

The guys at Bourbon Pursuit Podcast have been steadily churning out new single barrel releases under the label “Pursuit Series” over the course of a couple years now.

As the internet’s largest bourbon podcast, they have a reputation as whiskey experts which should transfer over into selecting some pretty killer barrels. Initially, Kenny and Ryan found that gaining access to the premium bourbons was hard to do.

Barrel brokers typically did not have large quantities of aged Kentucky bourbon just setting around (or for reasonable prices). This has somewhat forced their hand at having to select bourbon primarily from Cascade Hollow (George Dickel) for a majority of their picks. But barrels from New York are also getting a good amount of love in the Pursuit Series line thanks to Finger Lakes Distilling.

Episode 44 is the 5th time a whiskey has been chosen from Finger Lakes (4 bourbons and 1 rye whiskey) and it’s the oldest one yet. Aged for 7 years, they bottled this at cask strength which ended up being a rather low 102.1 proof.

Why so low? Because Finger Lakes barrels their bourbon at 100 proof (which is actually lower than Michter’s does). The cooler temperatures around New York also mean that water evaporation doesn’t occur as much, therefore making the proof rise very slowly.

This low proof should help extract and dissolve the wood sugars better than a higher proof would and hopefully create a more mellow whiskey.

Speaking of wood, the barrels Finger Lakes uses are said to come from a cooper in Missouri who air-dries the staves for an incredible 36 months.


I did a double take after reading that because it’s rare to see wood dried for this long. Typical Kentucky distilleries usually have their staves dried for 3 to 6 months on average. I also realized that another distillery that I’m a fan of, Valentine Distillery (makers of Mayor Pingree whiskey) in Detroit, uses barrels containing those same specs.

Why am I so excited about the barrels they are both using? Because the longer the wood is air dried, the more harsh tannins break down inside of the wood.  This should theoretically create a more mellow whiskey. And for the most part, craft distilleries need all the help they can get.

For $65, this 7 year old whiskey seems like a great value considering what other craft distilleries are producing these days. I also appreciate the fact that the Bourbon Pursuit guys put a “Show Notes” description on the front of the label.

It’s concise and easy to understand what exactly the bottle is supposed to deliver. The show notes on Episode 44 say: “Get your cholesterol checked because this barrel from Finger Lakes Distilling is like buttah’ry date syrup.” So is that accurate? Let’s pour a glass to find out!

Tasting Notes

Nose: Sweet scents of honey and dark dried fruits like dates mingle with a slightly green wood scent. That’s not really what I hoped to find in a bourbon with the barrel specs I described above.

There are bits of herbal aromas that combine with some citrus and vanilla and kind of lighten it all up a bit. There’s even a small amount of unbaked yellow cake batter too.

Palate: Thick and oily with a lot of cinnamon spiced apples up front and syrupy raisins. The green apple and apricot flavors tell my mouth that this is a young bourbon even though the age statement does not.

On a positive note, the heat is well controlled which sometimes you don’t find in craft bourbons regardless of proof. This is certainly unique in a way that separates it from other bourbons.

Finish: The sweetness tapers off on the finish with notes of figs, dates and a strange “flat” diet soda taste. The sour apples, charred oak and damp forest floor finale doesn’t really appeal to me but luckily these notes are less invasive as the flavors slowly fade away.

Score: 6/10

What started out as a likable dram ended up just “okay” as the session went on. Late into the sip, the flavors that I associate with a younger whiskey seemed to gradually take over.

For a 7 year old bourbon, I wasn’t really expecting this because the age is still pretty decent considering that most of the new stuff MGP, Barton and even Old Ezra are bottling these days is around 5 to 6 years old.

If I were to take a guess at why this is, it would have to do with the climate around Finger Lakes being not as conducive to getting the distillate to push through the layer of char inside the barrel to really remove those harsh and young notes.

As is the case with almost all of my reviews, I would encourage you to drink this bourbon first before any other bottles in the same session. I saw a significant decline in how I perceived this bourbon when I drank it after a pour of MGP or Four Roses. Drinking this after another bourbon made it taste less sweet and more raw and unrefined.

Drinking it before other bourbons does reveal the “buttery dates syrup” aspect that the show notes claimed it would. But beware that the odd, “green wood” trait was always lurking with every sip and sniff.

Final Thoughts

Still, kudos to the Bourbon Pursuit Team for helping to give Finger Lakes a chance to become more recognized in the ever-expanding bourbon market.

I do believe that they are doing things the right way but this bourbon may need to see another few years in the barrel before it can become something that can compete against Kentucky’s finest.

Ratings Breakdown

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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