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Cigar Spirits: Belle Meade Special Cask Finish Series Bourbon

6 Jun 2018

Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery has plenty of history. In the 1800s, the Nashville distillery was one of the nation’s top whiskey producers, selling two million bottles annually.

Like many distilleries, it didn’t survive prohibition, and was shuttered in 1909 when Tennessee adopted prohibition at a state level. In 2006, Nelson family descendants visited the grounds and decided to relaunch the operation, eventually installing whiskey stills in 2014.

Like many smaller distilleries, while they wait for their whiskey stock to grow, Nelson’s Green Brier is relying on sourced whiskey. In this case, they turned to MGP in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, to supply their Belle Meade bourbon line, all using a “high rye” mashbill.

Rather than just bottling sourced whiskey, the company sought to produce a more unique product with their limited Belle Meade Cask Finish Series which, as the name suggests, finishes aged bourbon in casks previously used for other spirits.

The Sherry Cask version employs nine-year-old bourbon aged in 20-year-old oloroso sherry casks. The Cognac and Madeira both use a blend of six- to nine-year-old bourbon in twelve-year-old Champagne XO cognac and Malmsey Madeira casks, respectively. The tasting notes on each are as follows:

Belle Meade Cognac Cask Bourbon
Nose: Burnt toffee, orange peel, cedar
Palate: Wood tanins, ripe berries, cigar box
Finish: Sugared pears with cedar and cinnamon spice

Belle Meade Madeira Cask Bourbon
Nose: Pear, oak, vanilla
Palate: Candied apples, honey, sugar cookies
Finish: Mint, oak, cherries

Belle Meade Sherry Cask Bourbon
Nose: Rich dried fruit, malt, caramel
Palate: Tobacco, spice box, fruit cake, grilled pineapple
Finish: Long with sherried walnuts and burnt caramel

The intensity of Sherry Cask was the standout, but then I’m a fan of sherry bomb single malts. All three are quite nice, with the Madeira being the most subtle and the Cognac bringing a nice balance of rich flavors, even if both sometimes, to their detriment, show their more youthful bourbon components.

In many ways, the Belle Meade Cask Finish Series represents both the opportunity and drawbacks of the current bourbon resurgence (some would call it a bubble). Quality sourced bourbon is expensive, but it also drives innovation, which is almost certainly why Belle Meade decided to differentiate their sourced bourbon with these unique cask finishes.

Bottles of each range from $70 to $80, but the best way to sample the range is to pick up a three-pack of half-size 375 ml. bottles. Usually, the three-bottle set sells for around $100, but maybe you’ll be lucky enough to find them on sale (as I did for $50). At full price, it’s harder to justify buying without trying them first, but at half that it’s good bourbon to keep on your shelf.

The Madeira and Cognac benefit from a more medium-bodied balanced cigar. The richness of the Belle Meade sherry cask will stand up to more full-bodied cigar.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

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