Spirits of French Lick Distillery is nestled in the rolling hills of southern Indiana about 60 miles northwest of Louisville, KY. The distillery has many claims to fame among the craft distiller’s of the state with one of them being that they are the largest pot still distillery in Indiana.
I’m not sure if that means they have the most output or if their potstills are the largest in size (which I would believe belongs to Starlight Distillery, but I digress).
The master distiller, Alan Bishop, is enthusiastic about his craft and has gone on the record many times as to why he creates whiskey the way he does and why the grains he uses are the focus of his spirits.
The bourbon before us today is labeled “William Dalton.” The William Dalton line is a wheated bourbon that uses 70% corn, 20% wheat and 10% malted barley for the mashbill.
The previous wheated bourbon that Spirits of French Lick produced was simply called “The Wheater” and contained a blend of 7 year old wheated bourbon from MGP and 2 year old wheated bourbon from their own stills.
That has now been discontinued. Other stats for William Dalton include it being double pot distilled (usually to around 132-135 proof) and going into the barrel at 105 proof.
Speaking of barrels, Spirits of French Lick uses only 53 gallon white oak barrels that have been toasted and charred (but not the heads) with a Level 2 char.
It’s also been aged for a minimum of 4 years in a cellar that still sees temperature variations of around 40 degrees throughout the year.
The William Dalton line has not been released for distribution at the time of this review, but the gift shop/cafe at the distillery did put out this single barrel early in 2021.
Bottled at 107.9 proof, this would show the lucky few that scooped up a bottle just how well their wheated distillate was maturing. So how is it coming along? I sampled this neat in a glencairn to find out.
Nose: I was drinking other craft bourbons before pouring this one and immediately noticed how different this one was. There was almost no hint of youth at all.
I found notes of warm cinnamon rolls with vanilla icing, chocolate pudding with chocolate shavings and canned cherries. I also found some light vanilla and a lovely toasted wood scent. This one definitely had all the hallmarks of a well made wheated bourbon.
Palate: The sweet chocolate of the nose darkens and becomes a bit more bitter. It’s very close to a mixture of cocoa powder and baker’s chocolate.
A little bit of chalkiness comes through on my tongue which doesn’t really ruin the taste but is a little strange. Otherwise, vanilla and poached pear flavors mingle with a bit of cinnamon dust.
The exotic flavor of breadfruit gives the mouthfeel some heft while a small amount of wood cleaner give a bit of depth and a small amount of astringency.
Every now and then some youthful traits pop up but for the most part the well-developed flavors keep them under wraps.
Finish: Ovaltine, chocolate-covered cherries and a bit of vanilla custard all combine to give this dram a much richer and sweeter finish than I would have ever expected.
The only thing I can say I’d like more of are tannins and this would be maybe one of the best craft distillery bourbon finishes I would have tasted.
I did find a little bit of leather at the very end and am hopeful that a couple more years would really help to develop that.
I’m actually quite impressed with this one. The nose ranks right up there with similar Kentucky wheated bourbons (think Maker’s Mark or 1792 Sweet Wheat).
In fact, there is a lot here that reminds me of a younger Maker’s Mark Cask Strength. Comparing this to MMCS was the last thing on my mind before I took a sip, but here we are.
Also, as much as I wanted to disagree with their decision to use #2 charred oak barrels, I do actually think it helped out a lot here.
So many craft bourbons have a young astringent or green wood taste and since I found a lack of that here, I have to believe it has something to do with the char level. Do more craft distilleries need to jump on this trend? It couldn’t hurt to try.
Craft bourbons that use wheat in the mashbill have traditionally let me down throughout the years. Everyone from Wyoming Whiskey to Nelson’s Green Brier have somehow made their whiskey taste even worse by choosing to omit rye in favor of wheat.
I was so sure that this would be the case here but lo and behold the crew at Spirits of French Lick have actually produced a very good product.
I declare this to be the closest thing I’ve tasted to a Kentucky wheated bourbon yet. As much as I write reviews that tend to be overly judgemental, I still would like to think that I’m open-minded to the possibility that I can be wrong.
And in the case of William Dalton, I was wrong to have assumed that this would not be good. Well done, Spirits of French Lick.
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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