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Cigar Spirits: Breckenridge Bourbon

22 May 2017

I’ll admit it. When I saw the tagline for Breckenridge Distillery—“the world’s highest distillery”—I first thought of Colorado’s legalization of marijuana. Only seconds later did I realize the slogan was instead a nod to Breckenridge’s elevation of 9,600 feet above sea level. Such a clever play on words.

Credit for this double-meaning is probably due to Bryan Nolt, the young man who is founder and CEO of Breckenridge Distillery. “In 2007, I had the arguably really bad idea of starting a distillery in Breckenridge, Colorado,” Nolt writes on his company’s website. “Cashing out my life savings, kids’ college fund, and eventually selling my house to cover monthly payroll and taxes, we bootstrapped our way through the early years loving every minute of it.”

Today, Nolt says, it would be fair to call his distillery successful. In part, this is due to the “unique features of the Breckenridge water we use for proofing and blending every bottle of our spirits.” The Breckenridge product catalog includes a gin, several vodkas, a spiced rum, a bitter, a whiskey distilled from malt mash, and a blend of straight bourbon whiskeys simply called Breckenridge Bourbon.

I recently bought a bottle of the latter for about $40 here in Chicago (750 ml. bottle, 86-proof). “We mash, ferment, and distill a lot of bourbon in-house,” reads the Breckenridge website. “Our blend of straight bourbon whiskeys also consists of barrels selected from Kentucky, Tennessee, and Indiana chosen for their unique qualities, heritage, and ability to marry in our blend, always made from a high-rye mash bill.”

That mash bill is 56% corn, 38% rye, and 6% malted barley. It is fermented in an open-top fermenter and twice-distilled in a copper-pot still. It is then set to barrel-age at 120-proof (no one knows for sure how long, but most seem to think only for two or three years; if true, the bourbon should have an age statement, which it does not). After aging, it is diluted with melted snow from the Rocky Mountains.

In the glass, Breckenridge Bourbon sports a dark copper color with a nose of brown sugar, candied pecan, green raisin, and banana. The flavor is nicely balanced and complex with a bready texture and abundant warm spice. The taste includes vanilla, buttered corn, honey, caramel, oak, and cinnamon. The finish is incredibly long-lasting with a pronounced spice and a numbing heat.

That numbing heat, to me, is the signature characteristic of this spirit, and a highly enjoyable sensation. It is significantly reduced if you add more than a drop of water, or if you serve the bourbon on the rocks. Therefore, I suggest you first try Breckenridge Bourbon neat (or, at the very most, add just a drop of room-temperature water).

Is this a young bourbon? Yes. Does it carry an age statement? No. That said, I think $40 is a very fair price since it delivers such a unique, satisfying, harmonious experience. I highly doubt you will be disappointed if you pick up a bottle. When you do, pair it with a medium-bodied smoke that brings its own complexity to the table. For starters, I would suggest the Gaaja Maduro Torpedo or the El Güegüense Churchill.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

5 Responses to “Cigar Spirits: Breckenridge Bourbon”

  1. Brian Fiori (AKA The Dean) Wednesday, May 24, 2017 at 10:23 pm #

    If what you say is true, Breckenridge releases a 3-year old bourbon with no age statement. This is in clear violation of the TTB regs which require a bourbon to state the age of the youngest whiskey in the blend, if under 4-years old. Irrespective of the quality of the hooch, this is something a whiskey blogger should make clear, and challenge, IMO. Again, if this is really the case, Breckenridge should be ashamed of itself.

  2. Brian Fiori (AKA The Dean) Wednesday, May 24, 2017 at 10:31 pm #

    Now it occurs to me, you are a cigar blogger, and not a whiskey blogger, so my apologies. Still, if this is true, it’s a major violation, IMO. For my penance I’ll go smoke a nice Padron.

    • Patrick A Thursday, May 25, 2017 at 8:20 am #

      “How old is Breckenridge Bourbon? Nobody seems to think it is more than two or three years old. It doesn’t have an age statement on the label and it is supposed to have an age statement if it is less than four years old. So does that mean it is more than four years old? It would be nice to know.”

      Perhaps I could have made this clearer in the article. That said, I was not incorrect in saying this bourbon does not have an age statement. I may be a cigar blogger, but I think we can all agree Chuck Cowdery is a trusted bourbon writer. The excerpt above is from this article:

      • Patrick A Thursday, May 25, 2017 at 8:38 am #

        Now that I’ve dug into his a bit further, I am going to update the article to reflect the fact that it is unclear exactly how long the bourbon is aged, though there is general agreement this is a very young bourbon.

        Thanks for bringing this to my attention.

        I still stand by my assessment of the bourbon, but would agree with Mr. Cowdery that it’s frustrating Breckenridge isn’t more forthcoming and transparent.

  3. Brian Fiori (AKA The Dean) Thursday, May 25, 2017 at 10:31 am #

    IMO, you can’t do better than Chuck Cowdery, as a source for just about anything American Whiskey related.

    And, yes, that edit probably makes things a bit clearly. But my original comment was based on my own misreading of your post. I even double checked to see if you discussed the 4-year age regs. Apparently, I just completely missed it. My bad. My only explanation is, I posted a tad too sober.

    Carry on. Love the blog and check in quite often for cigar reviews.