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Spirits of French Lick William Dalton Single Barrel Bourbon (Red Barrel Pick, Barrel 472)

Spirits of French Lick William Dalton Single Barrel Bourbon (Red Barrel Pick, Barrel 472)
Red Barrel Liquors located in Mooresville Indiana is an up-and-coming player among the strong competition of liquor stores in central Indiana.  For years it seemed like they bucked the trend of single barrel picks.  Meanwhile, other stores around them gained loyal fanbases through their many store selections of whiskey.  But as one generation of owners gradually began to pass the torch to the younger generation, store picks were now on the table.
Alex Drabing has assembled a team of trusted tasters to help him select the single barrels that he’ll be selling to his customers.  In late 2021 he took his team to Spirits of French Lick and ended up picking two barrels, one of which you see here.  William Dalton Wheated Bourbon is a relatively new bourbon in SoFL’s arsenal.  It was first released in early 2021 after finally reaching 4 years of age.  If you don’t already know, Spirits of French Lick concentrates on the grains they use for their whiskey more than any other part of the distilling process.  That’s not to say that they ignore all the rest, but they really want the grains they select to speak for themselves.  That kind of explains why almost all of their barrels were aged in a chai cellar rather than in a hot rickhouse.  This is changing though, as SoFL has two new warehouses constructed right outside of their distillery tasting room.

William Dalton Single Barrel

SoFL does claim that there are enough temperature variations to create a decent amount of liquid and wood interactions, but in a previous bottle of William Dalton Single Barrel that I reviewed, it didn’t seem like that was the case.  In fact, it was the grains I felt that imparted the most flavors.  But what surprised me in that previous bottle was just how well the wheated bourbon tasted compared to other young wheated bourbons I’ve tried.  It made me believe that Alan Bishop, master distiller at SoFL, had a special magic spell he must have cast on those grains prior to fermentation.
Based on my good experiences with the William Dalton line in the past, I decided that it was worth it to try another bottle.  Plus, Alex gives his customers samples of any store picks they have so I was able to experience the bottle before I bought it.  My initial tastes said it was good enough to drop $50 on but I would have to wait to get home to really dissect it.  I sampled this neat in a glencairn.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Notes of warm Cocoa Wheats Hot Cereal swirl around with vanilla and a bit of used coffee grounds.  There is a decent amount of caramel sweetness that I am picking up on but unfortunately a bit of green wood still hasn’t subsided from the distillate.  Overall the nose is pretty good but you can tell the youth hasn’t been entirely worked out of it.
Palate: The heat level is pretty hot for 105.3 proof.  Sharp and biting cinnamon mixed with chili pepper oil make each sip taste like it’s around 120 proof.  The grains are soft and cooked and combine well with savory and minty herbal notes.  Whoppers (chocolate malted balls) give my tongue the telltale sign that this is a wheater I’m drinking.  I also find under-ripe bananas and orchard fruits.  The heat dies down only a little bit as the session goes on.  The youthfulness of the distillate shows its ugly head through a sort of breadiness to the liquid.  It’s not revolting but it’s also not pleasant.
Finish: Lots more chocolate (bitter baking chocolate this time) with a touch of honey and some drying oak.  More herbs coupled with cinnamon and clove are the dominant flavors.  The sweetness has toned down but then again so has the youthfulness.  The finish is maybe the best part of the dram as it seems to improve with every sip.  

Score: 5.5/10


The thing with SoFL products is that since they’re kept in an chai cellar (basically a large, temperature moderated room, they never taste or smell quite as old as their age would suggest.  Without the heat cycling of their distillate, the sweetness doesn’t develop as much.  Other impacts of this overly-stable way of aging include a thinner mouthfeel and harsh, youthful notes not filtering themselves out through the barrel char.  I have a crazy dream that if SoFL could just place their bourbon on the highest floor of a standard Kentucky rickhouse for 6 years, the result would be absolute nirvana. 


But that is all a fantasy for now.  William Dalton is a competent enough bourbon that still ranks as one of the better craft wheaters out there.  It just needs a little more refinement.  One thing that it has going for it is the price.  Coming in at $50, I don’t find this to be too much to pay for a promising young craft distillery’s 4-year-old barrel proof product.  Will it be right for you? That depends on who you are as an enthusiast, but I will say that it’s always a good idea to try before you buy like I did.  Sometimes being surprised by a bottle can be a good thing and sometimes it can be a bad thing.  I think William Dalton will be more of the former in a couple more years.

Red Barrel announced that they sold out of the entire barrel before I could finish writing this review.  That’s a good sign that many others are enjoying this label from SoFL.  So if you’re looking for something different and new, I would recommend giving them a look.  You might be surprised with what you find.

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